Almost all research questions in the field of housing can benefit from being subject to a time perspective. Many researchers integrate past time into their analyses by using existing documentation or by asking respondents about the previous situation. In a longitudinal study the researcher either continuously observes a process over a long period of time, or makes systematic re-visits to an area for data collection.
This chapter presents a case study of a time series analysis of the quality of housing in a squatter settlement known as George in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. Quality is always experienced by someone and the opinion of what is good quality might differ according to culture, class and gender. Research on quality of living space is, therefore, dealing with the users and their experiences, as well as the physical structures.
In George, a longitudinal study, including short field studies at about four year intervals, has been carried out over a period of twenty years. 1 Studies like this are unusual for obvious reasons. Few researchers have worked under conditions which allow them to maintain an interest in one settlement over such a long period. 2 The George study was designed to improve basic knowledge of housing processes and a focus on the quality of space was maintained through all phases. The intention of this chapter is to illustrate the potential of the longitudinal method in qualitative analysis of housing and settlements, using the George study as an example.
In order to illustrate how the longitudinal method can be adapted to changing planning and policy situations, this section will briefly review the George studies, putting each field study in its context. With